By Isaac Olamikan / Special Correspondent, Abuja
For 10 years now, Joanna (not real name) has being going through hell as a result of her youthful exuberance and ignorance.
The dark-skinned lady is HIV positive and she is ashamed of the consequences of her experience and the stigma associated with it. At a forum recently, she shared her pains with Saturday Independent.
“I was barely 15 years old; young, exuberant and eager to catch fun. I was then in JSS 2. However, I have an elder brother who was fond of beating me and chasing me out of the house at any time I made a mistake or offended him.
“He didn’t care what happened to me. If my mother dared to intervene, he would beat her. Whenever I sneaked into the house to eat and he later found out, he would descend on my mother. Even my father avoided him. He was ruthless and uncontrollable.
“There was a time he drove me from the house over a minor issue and I ended up living in churches close to our house at Jabi District in Abuja.
“Around 4a.m one morning my friend, who was having a similar challenge, and I were arrested by some policemen at Berger Bus Stop. As we were leaving the place that we slept around 3a.m. They took us to an uncompleted building; the place is now occupied by some corporate organisations. My friend was the first to be taken upstairs. I heard her crying.
“Later, one of the policemen came to tell me that their ‘oga’ wanted me too to join him upstairs. When I got there, my friend was crying. From all indications, she had been raped. I was given the same treatment.
“I was pregnant thereafter. I was too naïve to know that I was pregnant even while menstruating. My believe then was that one could not be pregnant if you are menstruating. It was my mother who discovered that I was pregnant four months later when I was told that my brother travelled and I decided to return home. The pregnancy was confirmed at the Garki General Hospital.
“I was devastated that I was pregnant. I made attempts to abort it because I was not ready to shoulder the responsibility of caring for a child, as I didn’t know the father. I wanted to complete my secondary education. I didn’t want anything that would act as a stumbling block against my dream.
“Unfortunately, I did not have enough money to get a qualified doctor to carry out the abortion. I approached a quack that did the abortion in a crude manner. A man, who was living opposite the hospital where I did the abortion and who was an acquaintance of the doctor accommodated me and later made advances me. He was then selling some wares at the Chisco Park area at Utako.
“While living with him, we dated and I never knew that he was HIV positive. I contacted it from him. Later, he drove me out of his house and got married to another lady. He died exactly one year after the marriage,” she narrated.
Joanna said that she got to know her HIV status when she went for a test in 2004, adding that the information devastated her so much that she almost committed suicide. Since then, she has being carrying her cross and has been coping with the HIV stigma and discrimination by members of her family and her neighbours. “My brother, whose ruthlessness led to my present situation, is now regretting his action. He is now a changed man,” she said.
She said she has been married for three years to a man who is also HIV positive, adding that her husband is an understanding type. She thanked members of the Catholic Church she attends in Abuja for their support and encouragement.
She advised parents not to abandon their children, especially the female ones, saying; “they should be mentored by their mothers.”